Bulldogs finally shake pesky Warriors
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
In a manner of moments after his team had clinched a 77-68 win against league rival East Poinsett County at home last Friday night, Billy Murray’s Earle Bulldogs were able to boast the following facts. -10 consecutive wins, dating back to a season-opening loss to Wynne. -A flawless 7-0 conference start after topping conference heavies Buffalo Island Central and East Poinsett County, the former on the road. – The fact that Earle has not yet seen sophomore Gerry Bohanon or senior Donte Garrett suit up for the Bulldogs yet, who figure to be key additions to an already strong team. Taking all of that into account, Murray had to have a lot to like, right? “We still have a long way to go,” said the veteran Earle coach. “Our free throws (22 of 27 from the free throw line) kept us in the game and kept us ahead. We didn’t shoot it too well and our defense struggled. I tried three different defenses and I didn’t like the way any of them played. We have a lot of work to do.” It may not have been the prettiest game Murray’s troops had seen or played, but it was still effective. Earle (10-1 overall, 7-0 3-2A) got a game-high 21 points from senior guard Marquise Brown, while his classmate and brother, Marcus added 16 of his own. Mark Thomas checked in with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Dontrell Johnson hit for 10 of his own. Thomas’ big night on the boards helped the Bulldogs to a 43-27 rebounding advantage that helped Earle prop up a 25 of 60 shooting night, including a 5 of 22 mark from three-point range. E.P.C. shot an efficient 23 of 50 from the field, including a scorching 8 of 16 from three-point range, while also taking care of the ball (13 turnovers) to stay in the game. The Warriors led 16-13 after the first quarter, and was down 33-28 at the break. Senior forward Clay Malone led the Warriors with 19 points and 4 three-pointers, while J’Sebian Brown added 15. Leading 47-42 entering the fourth quarter, Earle threatened to run off in the fourth quarter when a pair of Marcus Brown layups gave the Bulldogs their first double-digit lead at 70-60 with just under 5 minutes left in regulation. However, Malone would round up an offensive rebound before canning a step-back triple and a Montrell James jumper got the Warriors back within 5. From there, Earle’s aggressiveness driving to the basket allowed them to clinch the game from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs canned 17 of 20 fouls in the final frame to clinch the win, highlighted by Thomas connecting on 9 of his 10 attempts. “It went down to the wire, they’ve got a great team,” Murray said of the visiting Warriors. “They haven’t been able to put it all together yet, we may be a little more together than they are, but I know we’ll see them at the district and regional tournament, and it’s gonna be a great game.” Prior to last Friday night, the last meeting between the schools in Earle was played last February and the Warriors won in overtime, which snapped an eight-game Earle winning streak. The Bulldogs are on the road during their Christmas break when they play in the annual Lendel Thomas Holiday Tournament in Harrison next week. Earle will play Class 3A power Little Rock Episcopal in the opener on Monday, December 28 at 12:15 PM.